Ivanka, Jared could profit from tax break they pushed

By Stephen Braun, Jeff Horwitz and Bernard Condon | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — At an Oval Office gathering earlier this year, President Donald Trump began touting his administration’s new “Opportunity Zone” program that offers massive tax breaks to developers who invest in downtrodden American communities. He then turned to one of the plan’s strongest supporters.

“Ivanka, would you like to say something?” Trump asked his daughter. “You’ve been pushing this very hard.”

The Opportunity Zone program promoted by Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner — both senior White House advisers — could also benefit them financially, an Associated Press investigation found.

Government watchdogs say the case underscores the ethical minefield they created two years ago when they became two of the closest advisers to the president without divesting from their extensive real estate investments.

They jointly own a big stake in a real estate investment firm, Cadre, that recently announced it is launching a series of Opportunity Zone funds that seek to build major projects under the program from Miami to Los Angeles. Separately, the couple owns interests in at least 13 properties held by Kushner’s family firm that could qualify for the tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York and Maryland.

There’s no evidence the couple had a hand in the selecting any of the nation’s 8,700 Opportunity Zones, and the company has not indicated it plans to seek tax breaks under the new program. But the Kushners could profit even if they don’t do anything — by potentially benefiting from a recent surge in Opportunity Zone property values amid a gold rush of interest from developers and investors.

Ivanka Trump’s advocacy for the Opportunity Zone program “creates a direct conflict of interest with her spouse’s investment in Cadre,” said Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for the nonprofit Citizens …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


OMG! Now California wants to tax text-messaging?

Texting your sweetheart that you’re on your way home? California may soon charge you for that.

This is no LOL matter, critics say.

State regulators have been ginning up a scheme to charge a fee for text messaging on mobile phones to help support programs that make phone service accessible to the poor. The wireless industry and business groups have been working to defeat the proposal, now scheduled for a vote next month by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“It’s a dumb idea,” said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council business-sponsored advocacy group. “This is how conversations take place in this day and age, and it’s almost like saying there should be a tax on the conversations we have.”

It’s unclear how much individual consumers would be asked to pay their wireless carrier for texting services under the proposal. But it likely would be billed as a flat surcharge per customer — one of those irksome fees at the bottom of your wireless bill — not a fee per text.

Business groups, including the Bay Area Council, California Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Valley Leadership Group and others opposing the idea, calculated the new charges for wireless consumers could total about $44.5 million a year.

But they add that under the regulators’ proposal the charge could be applied retroactively for five years — which they call “an alarming precedent” — and could amount to a bill of more than $220 million for California consumers.

A dense California Public Utilities Commission report laying out the case for the texting surcharge says the Public Purpose Program budget has climbed from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million last year. But the telecommunications industry revenues that fund the program have fallen from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2017, it said.

“This is …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Court: Daniels must pay Trump $293K for legal fees

By Felicia Sonmez | Washington Post

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Stormy Daniels must pay President Donald Trump more than $293,000 in legal fees in her failed defamation lawsuit, a decision that the president’s team hailed as a “total victory” but that Daniels’ attorney vowed would “never hold up on appeal.”

U.S. District Judge James Otero ruled that Daniels must pay Trump $293,052.33 in “attorneys’ fees, costs and sanctions,” a figure representing 75 percent of the amount Trump had been seeking.

Daniels had claimed in the lawsuit that Trump defamed her when he suggested that she had lied about being threatened to keep quiet about their alleged past relationship. Otero dismissed the suit in October, ruling that Trump’s “rhetorical hyperbole” was political in nature and ordering Daniels to pay the president’s legal fees.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, has appealed Otero’s ruling.

The lawsuit is one of two that Daniels has filed against Trump. The second seeks to invalidate a 2016 nondisclosure agreement aimed at preventing Daniels from speaking about the affair that she says she had with Trump a decade ago. Trump denies that the alleged affair took place.

Charles Harder, an attorney for Trump, hailed Tuesday’s decision as a triumph for the president.

“The court’s order, along with the court’s prior order dismissing Stormy Daniels’ defamation case against the President, together constitute a total victory for the President, and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels in this case,” he said in a statement.

Avenatti disputed that interpretation, firing back with a tweet claiming that Harder and Trump “deserve each other because they are both dishonest.”

“If Stormy has to pay $300k to Trump in the defamation case (which will never hold up on appeal) and Trump has to pay Stormy $1,500,000 in the NDA case (net $1,200,000 to Stormy), how is this a Trump win?” Avenatti said …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Pelosi reportedly takes shot at Trump and his ‘manhood’

By Mike DeBonis | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Moments after returning to Capitol Hill after an Oval Office standoff with President Donald Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi questioned Trump’s manhood and said the border wall was a matter of masculine pride.

“It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” said the Bay Area congresswoman.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made the remarks in a Democratic caucus committee meeting, which were recounted by an aide present who was not authorized to comment publicly. She told colleagues that she was “trying to be the mom” in the room while Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., bickered about the coming funding showdown.

But she described Trump’s admission during the 17-minute on-camera tete-a-tete that he would be “proud” to shut the government as a political triumph.

“The fact is, we did get him to say, to fully own, that the shutdown was his,” she said, according to the aide. “That was an accomplishment.”

Said Trump at the meeting, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security . . . I will be the one to shut it down, I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Pelosi’s encounter with Trump on Tuesday came as she continues to try and win votes among fellow Democrats to be elected speaker next month. In a tweet Tuesday morning and at the Oval Office meeting, Trump made reference to that contest, suggesting it was a reason Pelosi would not negotiate on wall funding.

But Pelosi’s performance in the meeting stands to improve her chances of winning support among fellow Democrats, and her remarks to colleagues sought to highlight how she believed she and Schumer had won the upper political hand.

She used a similar line in October during an event at …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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